One of the factors that make modern work environments unique is that the workforce today comprises of people from multiple generations. This naturally creates diversity in the workforce and makes for a great learning experience thanks to the distinct perspectives that each generation holds. At the same time, managing the multi-generation workforce often proves to be a challenging task, especially in terms of keeping it engaged. Each generation has its own preferences when it comes to the way of communication, the use of technology and tools and even dressing up. This has forced organizations to review their talent management strategies to meet the interests, priorities, and expectations of each generation. In this context, it is essential for organizations to follow the policy of inclusion for all to gain the benefits of having a truly diverse yet unified workforce.
An overview of the multi-generation workforce
It might come as a surprise for many that the workforce employed by most organizations today comprises of people spanning across five generations. In fact, in many organizations, the age gap between the oldest and youngest employees is often greater than thirty years. While such generational diversity provides benefits in terms of levels of expertise and diverse skill-sets for an organization, it also poses a major challenge in terms of ensuring a high level of employee engagement and motivation. The most important thing for the organization to understand in this context is the distinct generations within the workforce, which are as follows:
Traditionalists: This is the generation of employees who were born before 1945 and although they generally comprise the smallest percentage of the workforce, their significance cannot be undermined due to the rich understanding of the organization’s history and the knowledge of business cycles.
Boomers: This generation of employees, also referred to as Baby Boomers, includes people, who were born between 1946 and 1964 and are often the second smallest section of the workforce.
Gen X: Members of the workforce who were born between 1965 and early 1980s, are categorized as belonging to Gen X and are known for being the first professionals to use technology at work.
Millennials: In most organizations, the employees born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s are categorized as belonging to Gen Y or millennials and often form the biggest section of the workforce. They are tech-savvy and have a good understanding of the digital world.
Gen Z: This section of employees consists of people born after the mid-1990s and forms the second largest percentage within the workforce besides being the most tech-savvy of all professionals.
Challenges of managing a multi-generational workforce
The biggest challenge in the context of managing a multi-generational workforce is to ensure high engagement and motivation levels of the entire workforce. From Gen Z to traditionalists, bridging the gaps in skills, expertise, learning abilities and use of technologies across employees of different generations is essential to creating a positive work culture. Such a work culture is based on mutual respect and an in-depth understanding of the significant role that each generation plays in ensuring organizational growth and success. Developing such a work culture requires the management to invest time and effort in helping each generation to gain a better understanding of the expertise and skillsets of other generations. In addition, they also need to work towards eliminating any unconscious bias, barriers of ageism and pre-conceived notions.
Strategies for boosting engagement across multiple generations
In order to fully exploit the benefits of the diverse expertise, skills, and experience that a multi-generational workforce brings to a workplace, it is important to develop a culture of inclusion. For this, organizations need to use a modernized approach to ensure greater engagement of employees belonging to different generations. This means that the employees, whether they belong to the generation of traditionalists or millennials, should feel themselves to be an integral part of the organization and its growth policies. A few effective strategies that can help ensure the same are discussed as follows:
Communicate with each generation in a language they understand
When sharing any information with the entire workforce, organizations need to use the different modes of communication for employees of different generations. For example, while the members of Gen Z may prefer a more informal communiqué in casual language, the boomers might feel more satisfied with a detailed e-mail.
Enabling employees from different generations to work together
Creating opportunities for people belonging to different generations to work together can go a long way in boosting engagement. For example, millennials may be given the responsibility of teaching the bloomers the nitty-gritty of technology usage. Similarly, traditionalists can be made responsible for mentoring the younger generation professionals.
Recognize members of different generations differently
Recognition, when done right, plays an extremely important role in boosting motivation levels of the workforce. Hence, it is important for organizations to focus on modes of employee recognition preferred by different generations. While a private word of appreciation may suffice for baby boomers, the members of Gen Z are like to be appreciated publicly.
Ensuring consistently high levels of employee motivation is in itself a difficult task and it becomes even more challenging when the workforce comprises multiple generations. However, with the right intent and methods, this objective of integrating different generations of the workforce can be accomplished.